Fighting Game Scene Cracks Down With Top Players Accused Of Collusion

Major media outlets in the fighting game community are threatening to boycott coverage of tournaments that don't establish rules to prevent collusion, following an incident last weekend in which two top fighting game players were accused of splitting their winnings in the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 finals.

The accusations, which occurred during the Video X Games event in the Caribbean last weekend, revolved around two Marvel vs. Capcom 3 players, ChrisG and Flocker. Both had made it to the finals, and although VxG has not released payout details, the tournament's total prize pool was $US14,000.

In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, players fight using teams of three characters from both companies' universes. Top competitors like Flocker and ChrisG, who are two of the best MvC3 players in the world, generally use the same lineups for every match. But instead of using his regular lineup during VxG, ChrisG took an unorthodox route, choosing unfamiliar characters like the infamous attorney Phoenix Wright (who is not considered a very good character). In response, Flocker did the same, according to tournament director Chris Halata.

"Some people at first were like, 'Oh, [ChrisG] must have a secret team,'" Halata told me on the phone today. "Some people were like, 'Chris completely doesn't care about the match.'"

Fans and observers criticised ChrisG and Flocker, accusing them of unsportsmanlike conduct through collusion, or working together to achieve premeditated results instead of competing. Mark Julio, who handles community management and sponsorship at the accessory company MadCatz, tore into the players on Twitter, saying that if any of the players that MadCatz sponsored "ever throw matches or not play their best," those players would be suspended.

"I wish I saw it in time to stop it/say something," Julio wrote. "It was a joke finals."

ChrisG and Flocker are denying the accusations. When asked by Kotaku's Luke Plunkett if he'd like to comment further, ChrisG said "I don't see a point."

Here's the match in action:

In an e-mail to Kotaku, Capcom community specialist Peter Rosas had similar comments to Julio. "I saw a clear under performance," he said. "It’s acts like these which not only hurt the integrity of the event, but hinder the growth of the fighting game community after all the hard work it has taken us to get where we are now."

Yesterday, the fighting game-focused websites Shoryuken and EventHubs announced that, in partnership with MadCatz, they would boycott any tournaments that did not establish specific anti-collusion rules. The following statement appeared on both sites:

Competitive spirit is the lifeblood of the fighting game community. Unfortunately, this year we have seen a few incidents where players intentionally underperformed, usually in the final matches of a tournament. This behaviour is unacceptable, and it must end.

To guarantee the integrity of future tournaments, major tournament directors have come together to standardize Evo’s rule regarding player collusion:

"Collusion of any kind with your competitors is considered cheating. If the Tournament Director determines that any competitor is colluding to manipulate the results or intentionally underperforming, the collaborating players may be immediately disqualified. This determination is to be made at the sole discretion of the Tournament Director. Anyone disqualified in this manner forfeits all rights to any titles or prizes they might have otherwise earned for that tournament."

Fighting game-focused media outlets are in an interesting position because they are generally considered part of the community — Shoryuken, for example, is both a news site and the organisers behind EVO, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world. While an independent news website like Kotaku might not be see it as their role to boycott events they would otherwise cover, these organisations see the fighting game world a little bit differently.

"Well, the media blackout is a bit disconcerting," said Rod Breslau, a reporter who covers e-sports for GameSpot. "I think this rule is actually great, and should have been implemented a while ago. But if the media wants to stay neutral, I don't know how it can only take the sides of the tournament organisers, and not the players, too. Who's to say that a tournament organiser won't ever make a bad call on disqualifying someone, and then what?"

"This is an issue that we've never had official rules for in the fighting game community," Halata told me. "So [Shoryuken] wanted to make it very clear that that kind of behaviour — pot-splitting and collusion — is not acceptable at FGC events."

But Hatala, who has been organising game-related events for several years through his company GDL Entertainment, admits that this whole situation is "a grey area." He told me he doesn't know whether ChrisG and Flocker colluded — Flocker denied it, Halata said — and he doesn't know whether they split the prize money. (Flocker won the finals match.)

While neither Flocker nor ChrisG commented on the accusations to Kotaku, GameSpot's Breslau is reporting that both ChrisG and TriForce, Flocker's manager, denied colluding and sharing the prize.

(This afternoon, TriForce announced that he would be "no longer involved" with the fighting game community.")

ChrisG is known as one of the best fighting game players in the world, but this isn't the first time he's faced charges of collusion: fighting game fans have accused the top player of splitting pots and not trying very hard in finals matches at major tournaments. As a result of this week's accusations, one NYC-based tournament said they plan to ban him from their events.

But how does an organisation control these things? How can outside observers really tell whether collusion is actually happening? If the fix is in? And how can anyone keep track of whether or not someone is sharing their earnings?

"You can't control what other people do with their money," Halata said. "If a player wants to just give $US2000 to his friend after [winning] a tournament... at this point on it's his money to do that."


    I'm okay with prize splitting. If some players think that it's in their best interest to split the money, then all the power to them. It's their money and they can do what they please with it.

    As long as they still play to win.

    No throwing a match to the person you're prize-splitting with because you think that they have a better chance against the next opponent. No turning the grand finals into a joke because you don't care about the result.

      Exactly, it's disrespectful to the people behind the tournament and it's disrespectful to the people who have come to see the best play in a serious competition.

      On paper I agree with you, but in reality is it really possible to prize-split and NOT affect the gaming that takes place?

      I think the point is that the prize money is not a salary, it's not you getting paid to participate, its you getting a Prize for beating other players.

      Like all professional sports it's better to take out as much of the gray areas as possible. Prime example is NRL players not being allowed to bet on their own games (which is in the news again this week).

      Last edited 01/08/13 2:40 pm

        I used to follow poker tournaments and prize splitting is incredibly common there.

        As long as the prestige/pride/whatever of winning the tournament is worth something to the competitors, prize-splitting is okay.

        If ChrisG and Justin Wong agreed to prize split at Evo, do you honestly think that the top 8 would have played out any differently?

    soooo, they beat everyone else in the turney.... got to the finals, then decided to lighten the mood by using a character that isnt very good... why is that an issue? or am i missing something?
    they obviously already proved they are the best in the world... why not have some fun with it?
    or is it just because people think they threw the match?

      it's the match throwing that's the issue, it's not in the spirit of the competition to throw a match for split prize pools, I don't think anyone has an issue with players who mutually decide to use off characters to have a more interesting game with each other.

        No see thats how i saw it, but from the comments below it seems more like people are crying over the fact that they chose a shitty character... even though they both chose that character... so it was still an even match... and it was still a good fight.... hence why i dont see the problem.

          It has *nothing* to do w/ Chris choosing PW.

          A look at the first match just shows how terrible he was playing. If your saying that was a "close" match then my friend you have *NOT* been watching enough fighting games.

          His play style w/ PW was just plain sloppy from the get go.

      It's because people obviously take a videogame tournament seriously like any sport?

        But to me it show's more skill to win with a character you dont know, than 1 you have practiced to death

          It takes more skill to win Wimbledon playing left handed as a natural right hander, doesn't make it a good idea.

            It does if he wins.

              Not if both people decide to use a large trout to play tennis. Then all the supporters, sponsors and organizers have just gotten the shaft because they are not getting the product that was promised, a match between the two best competitors in the game.

              When you invest your time (and money) into a sport, even as a spectator, you expect a certain level of professionalism in product delivered. If e-sports wants to be taken seriously, these are the issues that need to be taken care of.

                "they are not getting the product that was promised, a match between the two best competitors in the game"

                actually they are still getting a match between the two best competitors in the game, they just aren't seeing them play with their usual teams, it's more like competitive bowls but the players choose to use a different set of weights then they usually would. if anything choosing off characters makes for a more exciting game because you get to see less conventional high end play rather then the same tactic over and over again.

                  A decent fighter would normally have a back-up character or two to mix it up on a VS tournament. There is *nothing* wrong w/ swapping rosters around. In fact on some matches people pick the odd joke chars because they know they *will* win.

                  However even w/ a roster swap your expected to play at a specific level of skill (just look at JWong's Storm on EVO... Storm is considered to me "mid tier" at best yet he pulls off an insane amount of stuff). The biggest problem here is the execution. Watching the video and its painfull to see just how bad some of Chris's play w/ PW is. You barely get the same agression/combos/etc. compared to his two normal rostered characters. PW is basically being played there as a handicap.

                  And *that* is the main issue here. Its not the fact he swapped rosters it's the fact Chris performed very poorly w/ his roster choice. Why would a self respecting player pick a roster thats only 2/3rd effective when he's meant to be competing for "1st place"??

    So they wanted to have fun instead of being serious. They still played as if it was a competitive match up, which is evident in the video. The issue here is that they had fun with different characters than they are expected to play with.

      Imagine if two AFL teams did something similar in the grand final. It's bad sportsmanship; if you want to have fun with it, an exhibition match is in order, but during the finals of a tournament, you have an audience who have come to see the best play against the best as best as they can.

      It's disrespectful to the tournament itself as well as the audience. Besides, where is the honor in not playing to the best of your ability? If we're going to take eSports seriously, well, we need to take eSports seriously, and in such, we need to employ the same standards as regular sports do.

      Sure, they can do it, there is nothing stopping them, but it is still disrespectful to the people who have gone to the trouble to set up the competition, particularly when there is $14,000 at stake.

      Last edited 01/08/13 1:01 pm

      Thats what exhibition matches are for - having fun/messing around

      When your in a tournament you play seriously. Even more so if its a final. It doesn't matter if your mates w/ the opposition you're there to compete and you bring your A game.

      You wouldn't expect professional sportsmen on "real sports" to muck around on a final. And neither should you expect competitors on eSports to much around either.

    They should have to play a random picked character in the final. Best of 3.

    Looks like eSports has a lot to learn from real sports, in terms of the philosophy of it all. You always play to win, it's a standard of honor more than anything.

      Yes, because no sports team would ever tank towards the end of the season to get a better draft pick.
      It is more an individual sport so if two people from the same team/camp/friends both get into the finals you are going to have a less intense match than if it is two rival competitors.

        If they're doing that as a strategy in order to win the next year, there is nothing wrong with that, because they're still playing to win. If they played shit on purpose towards the end of the season for the fun of it, then they are doing a disservice to their fans, the competition, their club and, if they care, themselves.

        "It is more an individual sport so if two people from the same team/camp/friends both get into the finals you are going to have a less intense match than if it is two rival competitors."

        Do we ever see this in tennis? Nope. And two people from the same team/camp/friends should be way more exciting than two regular opponents (maybe not as exciting as rivals though), because now they have to play as not friends.

        The point is to play to the best of your ability, otherwise you're not taking the competition seriously which is disrespectful for the audience and the tournament itself. I mean, it doesn't deserve a witch hunt, but it does deserve criticism.

        Last edited 01/08/13 2:53 pm

          I agree and think that tanking deserves criticism as well. You should play to win but to say that all real sports have that as a philosophy is going to far.
          As far as the individual sport I guess you are right about tennis, I'm not really a fan so couldn't tell. I was more thinking about combat sports like boxing where there is often a lower intensity when they come from the same camp.

    Much like the match fixing issue with the LoL finals a while ago I think that a lot of these players and a lot of spectators (example being right in this very comments section) just don't understand the concept of matchfixing or how big of a deal it really is.

    When there is thousands of dollars in sponsorships, people working behind the scenes to make the event possible and paying spectators you don't get to pull shit like this. When plenty of other sports have policys in place to prevent this very thing from happening esports can't just fall back on the "it's just videogames have some fun" excuse when there is not just prize money on the line.

    You know what else is a crime?

    The damn casters/hosts for that clip.... geebus they sound like a pair of wannabe frat boys >.

      One of the hosts is IFC Yipes. In case you don't know who that is... he's one of the MvC2 gods... he was really godlike with Magneto. There's a lot of very famous street talk lingo etc which has been put into the actual game as homage to MvC2(like Deadpool saying "where yo curleh mustache at?", and the hacked Dreamcast alternate colours like an all-white Magneto)

    Substandard teams is basically trolling. It actually is hard to stop collusion if they really mean it because they could just choose their real teams and drop combos/get hit on purpose. But yeah the Fighting Game Community(FGC) work quite hard to try to increase the popularity/awareness/competition/money for these games... as they're quite under-represented vs other eSports(say a few million $ for Dota 2 vs a few thousand maybe for UMvC3). If the grand final match is a joke, it's not good representation for the community.

    It's kind of like if you had a fine arts exhibit at a museum to entice potential investors to invest in the talented works within... but the best artists sit out the front drawing cheese-wiz doodles on a tablecloth when they're much more talented. It's counter-productive.

    Its funny that this happened, because I was having a discussion with a friend about FGC moving more towards E-Sports. Obviously, this will mean losing some of the "pop-offs" and "swagger" (PR Balrog humping some dude after a loss) in the FGC. But it will bring sponsors which means money. I think the FGC could be as big as at least CS:GO, which would mean more money and naturally result in less colluding.

    People got to eat. If you don't want to see such actions then the money needs to be better. Making rules won't stop it from happening it will just be less obvious. FGC needs to stop scaring off sponsors, worry about the culturual aspects instead of focusing on the game, skills, player and competition. DoTA is the best example of a game that can grow with community support working with developers. Valve put 1.6M dollars up the community increased that by 1.1M to 2.7M prizepool (spending 11M). FGC is coming to an impasse and it can chose to grow up with it's players financial needs or forever be snickering at rape jokes in it's parents basement.

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